Process variation is a difficult issue to deal with in some industries, while others tend to have a rather easy time with it. The problem becomes obvious when you’re working with a process that’s very sensitive to variation and yet it seems like no matter what you do, you simply cannot bring it down to acceptable levels and things appear to get worse with each iteration. What can you do in that case? As it turns out, there are actually various options available at your disposal when it comes to reducing process variation, you just need to know what they are.
1. Ensure consistency in procedures
This one might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often companies get it wrong and how much they end up suffering for it. You’re facing a huge problem if you don’t have a set standard defined for how your procedures should be carried out. The sooner you do something about this and integrate some consistency in the workflow, the better your organization as a whole is going to perform as a result. There are various ways to ensure that your work is more consistent, so explore them.
2. Operator switching
A common source of process variation is the procedure of switching between different operators at a specific machine. This can often lead to problems with consistency if the procedure is not carried out according to a specific guideline, and it may also be difficult to track this kind of variation due to the way it will manifest itself in your regular work. Make sure you avoid this by putting some proper guidelines for operator switching in place.
3. Statistical process analysis
Statistical process analysis can generally improve your organization quite a lot in many different aspects, but it’s a particularly useful technique when it comes to dealing with process variation. After all, it’s the main tool that works against variation in the first place – getting an overview of your current situation with statistical means. It just happens that statistical process analysis is the most prominent of those tools, and the one that’s truly become established as the main way of resolving issues with process variation.
4. Complete rework of a specific area
It might also be a good idea to completely throw out the way things work in some area of your operations, and redo the whole thing from the ground up. This can have many benefits in the long run as well, especially if you’ve already seen some performance problems in that area of your business. Just make sure that you’re not throwing out quality work, and components of the organization that actually matter, because moving backwards is definitely not the right way to deal with process variation.
5. Repeating old runs with new data
Last but not least, it can also occasionally make sense to repeat an older run that you’ve already recorded, but use new data that you’ve collected in its execution. This can allow you to compare what exactly has changed since the last time you ran that procedure, and you will get a clear overview of the way variables have shifted since then. Process variation can become quite obvious when investigated in this manner, and it’s a common procedure used by various companies to analyze their situations and get a better overview of what’s going on at any given moment. Just remember that sometimes it will not be possible to do a complete rerun of something that’s already been completed, so you might have to change some extra variables to make things work properly. As long as you handle that correctly though, you should be fine.